Most churches use their websites as a brochure or business card filled with information about their services and locations. However, if you want to leverage your church website to foster new relationships, you’ve got to adopt a new digital marketing strategy. With the right call to action, or CTA, your digital marketing team can connect with the unchurched and de-churched and share Jesus throughout your community.
What Is a Call to Action?
A call to action directs someone on your website to do something. For example, when a person in your community is struggling with their marriage and stumbles upon your church website, they’re looking for help. A useful call to action might be to download a PDF entitled “5 Ways to Improve Your Marriage by this Weekend.” When they download the PDF, they provide their name and email address, which generates a new lead.
A call to action:
- Is a prompt or directive that instructs a web visitor to do something;
- Uses action-oriented language: sign up, download, click, etc; and
- Includes a button, form, or web link visitors can use to connect.
Why You Need a Call to Action to Generate Leads
People searching the internet who have never connected with your church before are at the top of your marketing funnel. To build a relationship with them, you want them to take steps that bring them further down the funnel. The top of your funnel is very wide, so many people who come to your website might spin around the top of the funnel and then leave. Your goal is to guide them through a process using your website that moves them one step closer to your end of the funnel. Calls to action allow you to initiate connections and nurture relationships with people you hope will end up coming to know Christ, and potentially even visiting your campus.
Common Calls to Action Churches Use
There are a few types of CTAs churches frequently utilize. Though popular, they aren’t always effective. Here are several ways to use CTAs correctly; employing other tactics do not usually generate leads. Here are a few common scenarios to keep in mind.
Plan A Visit
Most churches have a page or tab with information about planning a visit. But if your visitors do so anonymously, you may never get to say hello. On the other hand, if your form asks for too much personal information, the intrusive questions will deter them from ever walking through your doors. Instead, use a CTA like “text the word ‘NEW’ and we’ll send info about your upcoming visit.” From there, you can send links to pre-register their kids for childcare or provide directions to get there.
Your “Plan a Visit” page should outline what visitors can expect during a visit to your church. You can include a warm welcome video from your pastor, highlight clips from recent messages, and provide more details about your children and youth ministries. Keep your CTA simple so readers don’t feel bombarded with expectations. Convey how much you care about them, and reinforce that they’re welcome any Sunday. To learn more about building your ‘Plan a Visit’ page, listen to our podcast titled 4 Things to Rethink About Your Church Website.
Sign Up for Our Newsletter
Many churches have a newsletter or email list, but this is not an effective call to action for newcomers. In reality, most church newsletters aren’t relevant to a person who doesn’t attend your church. The newcomer won’t benefit much from signing up, so they will probably be hesitant to do that. Although a newsletter is a CTA that’s often included on church websites, it’s seldom used. Keep in mind—it should still be on your church website, just not used as a lead generator. Rather, tailor it for interacting with existing churchgoers.
Every church should have a “Watch Live” option, but visitors can do this anonymously, so it’s not a good lead generator. To watch your service online, they don’t have to let you know who they are, which makes it impossible for you to follow up. A livestream is an excellent way for visitors to get a glimpse of your church and what you’re all about. They can see what your sermons are like, and experience your worship time, albeit online. So it’s a good step for them to get to know you a little better, but it doesn’t allow you to know them any better.
One effective way many churches are making their messages more accessible is by turning their sermons into short blog posts. Then they can include an option to watch or read the latest message. This offers two different calls to action to help visitors engage with your content online. However, to connect with them further, you’ll need other CTAs requesting contact information, so you can grow the relationship. CTAs offer additional ways of interacting, allowing you to dig a little deeper and connect with them.
More Effective Calls to Action for Church Websites
If you want to offer action steps that engage more people, generate more leads, and produce better results than the basic CTAs above, here are a few ideas.
Prompt People to RSVP
Provide a form or link to RSVP for special events such as a Christmas Eve service, Easter program, your VBS, or a fall fest. This gives you the opportunity to acquire contact information, which allows you to follow up with guests and invite them to future events. Use platforms like Eventbrite or AllEvents for registration, as it’s a low-barrier method people trust. Offer an incentive for bringing their ticket to the door—for example, a raffle for a $100 Amazon gift card. Fostering that personal connection enables you to meet each person, put a face to their name, and follow up with them afterward. Not having a registration system means missing out on the opportunity to engage with visitors, providing no way to follow up.
This tool crawls your church's website (up to 300 pages) searching for content that we have identified as important to millennials within page headings, text, and meta-descriptions. It will return an indication of how much millennial-focused content was detected on your site relative to the other church websites that we have crawled.
You will also be able to view more information regarding what content was found on your site, as well as what keywords we were searching for. This may provide you with ideas into content areas in which your church website may be lacking, or opportunities to better appeal to millennials in your community.
Find out more about our research into millennial interests by reading our Millennial Topical Survey Report, or about the Millennial Content Analyzer Tool Intent and Methodology
Offer Gated Content to Generate Leads
Like the marriage PDF concept mentioned above, your church can offer real-time resources for people searching for answers online. If you have a prompt on your website where they can enter their email address to be sent free, downloadable material, you can generate a quick lead while offering valuable content. This is known as gated content. You can do this with PDFs, e-books, email lists, text subscriptions, newsletters, and more.
For example, your children’s ministry team could create a ten-email sequence of devotionals for family dinnertime. You could also create a PDF package like a parenting guide or an e-book on parenting. The benefit of an email or text sequence is that it keeps people engaged over a longer period of time and gives them more touchpoints with your ministry.
How to Offer CTAs on Every Page of Your Church Website
Recently, a pastor tried putting a CTA on every page of his church website. He reported that his lead generation had doubled or tripled in just a few weeks! There are many ways you can guide people to take action steps that connect them with your church.
Your Staff Page
Aside from the home page, the number one page people visit on church websites is their staff page. It is the second-most viewed page as an entry point from the landing page that people go to. Once people reach your home page, they navigate your website menu to visit different pages and learn more about your church. One of the best ways to do this is by learning about your team. For one church Missional Marketing works with, we suggested creating a PDF with date night suggestions from each staff member. This downloadable PDF offered a fun way for people to get to know each staff member while also generating a lead so the church team could follow up. Trying something like this is creative and also shows the personality of your staff.
Use your website’s ministry pages to offer resources for the demographic searching for that ministry. A few examples are: a PDF that helps parents share the gospel with kids, a PDF for navigating social media with teens, a PDF with prayers for those in addiction, or a PDF with a five-day devotional for struggling couples. Include ways for people to download these resources in exchange for their name and email, and then send them more information. The downloadable resources are also shareable, so your congregation can send them to friends and family members dealing with the same issues who may not go to your church, or any church at all. You could do this for marriage conferences, grief support, Celebrate Recovery, or any other unique ministries your church offers. Many churches don’t have a page with information on accepting Jesus as their Savior, so including this CTA on your ministry pages is imperative.
Your sermon pages are not just for members of your congregation to rewatch your weekly messages. Visitors scrolling through your page may find a sermon that addresses their current situation. Offering a downloadable version is a great way to connect and send them more information. You can offer the sermon notes, outline, or transcript, or even reflection questions as downloads they can receive in their inbox in exchange for their name and email. Depending on the topic, you can follow up with them after this exchange of information simply by sending a personal email or inviting them to an upcoming church service or special event.
If you have a church blog, you have plenty of content that offers calls to action. If you don’t have a blog, it’s simple to turn your sermons into blogs and post consistent articles with valuable content. You can create a printable PDF version of a blog post with the click of a button. Then web visitors give you their name and email address to download a printable version of your blog post or any content or landing pages you have on your website. You can offer a variety of downloadable content behind an email wall so people provide their information. This allows you to follow up and make a personal connection.
Share With a Friend
One simple call to action to include on every page is to share the content with a friend or post it on social media. Missional Marketing has developed a Share Tool for this purpose. This tool gets connected with your church website and allows people to click a link or input their cell phone number or email address to share a sermon, web page, or blog post from your website. Our Share Tool tracks the sender and recipient, making follow-up easy.
Creating a Plan to Follow Up with Leads
It’s essential to follow up with leads and not let them fall through the cracks. Develop a streamlined follow-up process, such as a series of emails or texts that provide relevant information and resources. For example, if the visitor was researching marriage, you can send a series of emails with additional marriage resources. On the fourth or fifth email, offer a personal invitation to come to church and experience healing in a body of believers. Be intentional with your email sequence; track who readers send them to and which emails that person opens. Use this information to put them in your church email management system and send future emails or invitations. Track the leads who show up and improve your process over time. If you need help, Missional Marketing can coach you through the process.
The missing ingredient to your church website is the call to action. Utilize CTAs like, “RSVP for this event,” then follow up to develop meaningful relationships with people in your local community. Create gated content or lead-generating content on your website that gives a person a reason to self-identify what they’re looking for help with. You can learn more about church website CTAs by listening to episode 21 of the Missional Marketing podcast, where our experts take a deep dive into this topic. You can also reach out to us to meet with a member of our team who can partner with you on the next steps to take. With this information and a solid action plan, your church can start generating additional leads and ministering to your community in a whole new way!